Police Working to Prevent ‘Lawful but Awful’ Shootings

Law enforcement leaders from across the nation met to discuss ways to avert avoidable deadly confrontations between officers and civilians.

The meeting, convened by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), included more than 200 police department representatives.

As reported on Governing:

The group produced a pamphlet with 30 guiding principles on use of force, recommendations borne out of two years of interviews and field research with police chiefs. The common theme throughout was that departments could minimize “lawful but awful” shootings where police have a solid legal defense for firing a weapon, but might have avoided the killing and the public outrage that usually follows. For example:

  • When engaging a person with an edged weapon, officers should sometimes pull back to keep a safe distance. (Instead, many academies teach cadets to hold their ground and open fire out of self-defense.)
  • Departments should prohibit the use of deadly force when police encounter someone who shows signs of being suicidal rather than homicidal.
  • When considering the use of a firearm, police should first weigh the severity of the response (firing a gun) against the severity of the threat posed by the person.

The meeting is the latest attempt by law enforcement to respond to criticism following the well-publicized deaths of several young, unarmed black men in a police altercation. Killings in Ferguson, Mo.; Baltimore; Cleveland and New York City have inspired the Black Lives Matter movement and public frustration over fatal shootings by police. Critics question whether police are too quick to resort to firing a weapon. Charles Ramsey, the recently retired commissioner of Philadelphia’s police department and a member of Obama’s task force on 21st century policing, said law enforcement faced a “defining moment” in their use of force and how it affects the public trust.

For more information read the full article on Governing.